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Demeter and Persephone: A feminist reading

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Literature Age Levels High School (16 to 18 years old), Post-Secondary, Adults

This collection demonstrates a feminist reading of the Greek fertility myth "Demeter and Persephone." In this myth, we can see how patriarchy supplanted matriarchy and worship of a great goddess. Persephone's fate is in the hands of her father, Zeus, who, while acknowledging that Demeter has power, is able to suppress that power and bestow his daughter onto Hades. With the help of Rhea, the women are able to partially undo Zeus and Hades' plan, so they still maintain some power, but they remain unable to completely overthrow the mens' desires. Instead of using her own power to regain her daughter, Demeter has to use her anger to persuade Zeus to help her recover the daughter he gave away. 

Demeter [sculpture] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son)

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Proserpine

Smithsonian American Art Museum

We Are Angry Women

National Museum of American History

I Want to Live Without the Patriarchy

National Museum of American History

The Return of Persephone

Smithsonian American Art Museum

An Interlude

Smithsonian American Art Museum